Breaking: Hulkenberg out at Williams, Rubens to stay

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Nico HulkenbergNico Hulkenberg will not be back with the Williams team next season, the team announced today. Rubens Barrichello will be back in 2011, however.

Here’s what the team has to say:

The AT&T Williams team today announced that Rubens Barrichello will continue to drive for the team in 2011. The team’s second driver will be confirmed before the end of the year.

Rubens Barrichello enjoyed a successful first season with Williams, and his 18th in the sport. The Brazilian drove his FW32 into the qualifying top ten a total of 13 times and claimed 10 points scoring finishes over the year, all of which helped the team move forward to sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship at yesterday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The team can also confirm that Nico Hulkenberg will not contest the 2011 FIA World Championship with AT&T Williams. Nico joined the squad as a rookie at the start of the season, following a dominating career in Formula 3 and GP2 supported by Williams. Convincing performances in his debut year in Formula One culminated in 14th place in the Drivers’ Championship and an undoubtedly bright future in the sport. The team wishes to thank Nico for his dedication and team work over the past year, and for delivering a memorable first pole position in five seasons for the team at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Of the announcement Frank Williams, Team Principal of the AT&T Williams team, said, “‘First, I would like to thank Nico for his hard work this year, and before that in preparing himself for Formula One. We are very proud to have supported him as he secured the Formula 3 and GP2 titles and during his debut in Formula One. At Williams we have for many years tried to bring new talent into the sport, and we are convinced that Nico will go on to great things. We wish him well and hope that our paths will cross again in the future.”

Frank continued, “We recruited Rubens to Williams knowing that he would bring technical expertise, experience and passion. He has delivered everything we could have hoped for this season and we are delighted to confirm that he will drive for us again in 2011.”

Well, I’d say, “Wow,” except we all seemed to see it coming about Nico. Still, for a GP2 champ — and Willi Weber client — to get dumped so swiftly is a bit of a shocker, isn’t it?

Perhaps in the lead up to this we’ve debated the causes with not enough testing for Hulkenberg to get acclimated to the car at the top of the list.

But what say you? Good move on Williams part (also the choice to keep Rubens)? Who might be the replacement? Is it for sure a pay driver given Williams sponsor issues? Who would be the right choice for a replacement, in your mind? (And maybe answer that two ways: Who do you think would bring the team the most points and development but then also factor in the need for money.)

And: Do you think Nico could have saved his job yesterday?

Finally: What will Hulk smash in response?

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